How to Overcome Your Fear of Short Haircutting by Breaking Down Today's Most Popular Looks

Aug 17, 2020

Being able to confidently perform short hair cuts is a MUST for stylists that want to excel in today's market.

In this article I'm going to help you to begin to overcome that fear of practicing and performing today's top three trending short hair cuts:

  1. The Long Pixie
  2. Today's Graduated Bob
  3. Men's Disconnected Cut
A quick disclaimer: If you are a stylist that looks at these and says, “I do these types of haircuts all the time with no problem”, then this conversation is not for you. You are dismissed from this class :)

This post is going to cover:

  • Why The Fear of Short Haircuts
  • How to Identify The Techniques Used In Any Short Hair Cut
  • The Difference Between a Men's & Women's Cut
  • How to Practice The Techniques

Ok, Let's dive in!

Why The Fear of Short Hair Cuts

In my experience teaching around the country, I find many hairstylists that are afraid of doing some of the most requested shorter haircuts, and in many cases any short haircut.

Whether performed on a man or a woman, these looks give them a great deal of anxiety.

Stylists tell me that long layered haircuts are their comfort zone because they are the most requested haircuts by their clients, and as we know the more we do something the better we get and more comfortable we are doing it.

So they just never really practiced short hair enough to get comfortable with it, and as a result some stylists tell me that they actually try to talk clients out of short haircuts!

When I ask specifically what exactly are they afraid of, I get a variety of answers, like:

  • It’s easy to see a mistake

  • Inconsistency in layering so the hair looks choppy/clumpy/steppy

  • Scared of “scissor over comb”, what if they cut a “hole” in the haircut

  • Fear of cutting around the ear

  • Fear of the haircut looking uneven from side to side

  • Cutting it so short that the hair stands straight up (obviously when working on straight hair)

  • Having to cut a section again because they don’t like the way it’s looking and as a result having to cut it even shorter

These are all legitimate fears…all boiling down to the fact that they need to take their skills to the next level by getting more education and practice, practice, practice! (That’s why God created mannequins!!!) lol

So if you identify with any of the above problems then you are in the right place!

The truth is that mastering short cuts will help you build your chair and increase your income. 

Clients tend to ask the receptionist who’s the best at doing short hair if they were not referred to any particular stylists, and a great short haircut stands out in a crowd.

My short hair clients are always telling me they get stopped by people wanting to know who cut their hair!

NOTE: Before we go any further, keep in mind that the principals I'm going to teach you in this post will take practice before they will become second nature.

But by the end of this post at the very least you should be much less afraid and much less apprehensive about performing short hair cuts, and you will have a clear path ahead of you for how to move forward!

How to Identify The Techniques Used In Any Short Hair Cut

The first thing we need to do is deal with the fear by demistifying what a short haircut really is.

The best way to do this is to train your eye to be able to recognize and break down the steps and techniques used.

Let me tell you a quick story to help you understand how powerful this skill is... In the 90’s I was the personal hairstylist to Ricki Lake on her hit TV talk show. At one point I took her shoulder length hair to a short pixie haircut, which got a lot of attention from the tabloids.

I was asked to be on the main stage educating at the International Beauty Show in New York City, and when my segment was over I wanted to visit other platform artist’s stages to see what they were teaching.

One educator started to talk about Ricki’s new look, and proceeded to demonstrate the haircut on a live model.

I was flattered! He had no idea I was in his audience, but because he had a very good eye for breaking down a haircut he was able to pretty much NAIL the same steps I took, even though we had never met. 

Do you see the power of training your eye to breakdown a haircut?

I hope so!

Understanding The Head Shape

ALL short haircuts, jaw length or shorter, no matter what name is assigned to them (ie; pixie, short shag, graduated bob, so on) when broken down are simply a series of techniques used on different parts of the head-shape.

So, you need to get really good at identifying the different areas of the head-shape, because most short haircuts are executed differently as the head-shape changes.

If you haven't already, the diagram above is something you just need to commit to memory.

Take a few minutes every day for a few days to study this until you can see it with your eyes closed. You will thank me!

If you want my help learning any of these techniques, you can get my masterclass here.

To accomplish the three looks we are talking about today I used the following techniques:

  • Sectioning (the obvious sectioning you do before you even pick up your scissors, which is your blueprint for the cut)
    • Vertical sections, horizontal sections, diagonal back sections, diagonal forward sections, etc)
  • Layering (square and round)
  • Overdirection
  • Classic graduation
  • Disconnection
  • Elevation or lifting
  • Texturizing
  • Removing weight
  • Scissor Over Comb

One I did completely with a razor (the long pixie) but the same steps and sectioning could easily be followed by using a scissor.

In order to be able to analyze and understand any haircut just by looking at it - you need to FIRST be able to break down the different parts of the head-shape, and THEN identify the techniques used in each part

We will talk more about how to do that in a moment.

The Difference Between a Men's & Women's Cut

Let’s establish the fact that when it comes to cutting hair, there is really no difference between cutting short hair on a man or on a woman, other than the obvious attention you have to pay to the side burn area.

Although clipper cutting falls into the category of barbering, a lot of those cuts have crossed over to mainstream salons.

The techniques and basic principles we learn during classic haircut training are the same whether you are working on a man or a woman. SO…let’s just think of a short haircut as being non “gender specific”.

See the image below: I did these two haircuts using the same techniques in the same part of the head-shape and got the same results.

You can see my point about haircuts being androgynous!

How to Practice The Techniques


Keeping your eye on what you are leaving on and cross checking will help you get better at the balance of weight and consistency from side to side when you are working around the head.

Inconsistency in balance is a typical reason a haircut could get shorter than you originally intended, as you keep going back over a section trying to get it right.


It would be a good idea to go online and order an inexpensive mannequin and the bracket to hold it on a table top. I’ve seen human hair mannequins that come with the bracket for as little as $31 online.

To save some money it won’t be necessary to order a long hair mannequin which are more expensive. To practice your short hair techniques you can get one collar bone length to be able to practice the haircuts that you see in my "Fearless" masterclass collection or any short haircuts.

ANOTHER TIP: Plan which haircut you will do first wisely, because you could easily get 3 or 4 different short cuts out of one mannequin!

If you have a lot of family members or friends to practice on, good for you, although mannequins will never complain or give you a hard time if you make a mistake :)

To start training your eye to recognize how a technique translates - let's look ONLY at the “top” section to the “place where the head-shape falls forward” on each of my haircuts pictured, and identify the techniques that were used to accomplish the look of that section.

On the long pixie, the hair moves from short layers at the top of the crown getting longer as the hair falls to the forehead. (See the diagram below)

So, we can recognize that the sections in these areas were over-directed back from the front hairline to place where the head-shape falls back, or just behind the top of the crown.

Next look at the sides of the men's disconnected cut.

After those sides were cut to about two fingers length from the head (approx just under 1 1/2 inches), then the top section was parted in the middle, and combed down to each side and a new guide was cut, just below the parietal ridge running horizontally from front to back

Next, look at the top of the disconnected men’s cut. The top sits pretty heavily with long layers to just below the parietal ridge.

You can see that the top was totally disconnected from the very short layers that were cut previously on the sides, from just above the ear up to the bottom of the parietal area.

Now, take a look at the top of the graduated bob.

I used lots of techniques throughout this haircut, but the top falls softly from side to side and blended into the elongated sides, light and airy, telling you the top area was cut using round layers, and then texturized along with the elongated side length.

Ok, so we've really just scratched the surface. But hopefully this information has helped you to begin to see that you do not have to be so afraid of short haircuts.

Remember, no matter how daunting or complex a haircut seems at first glance, if you are able to break it down into the techniques that were used in each individual section - you CAN do it, and with some practice, MASTER IT!

No matter what happens, remember to just be brave and to not let fear prevent you from moving forward! 

I hope you found this information helpful! Let me know in the comments below if you did, or what else you might need help with. (When it comes to hair, that is lol)

If you want my help learning to perform any of these techniques, click here.


- Mary


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